OKEECHOBEE — Each day the Florida Department of Health posts the new numbers on the website, showing how many people have been tested for COVID-19 and how many have tested positive. At the April 16 meeting of the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners, one commissioner asked if those numbers will ever go down.
“It looks like the five cases that Okeechobee has, it looks like that is always going to be on our report card,” said Commissioner David Hazellief. “Will we know when any of those have met their quarantine time and we may or may not have any active in Okeechobee? When will that time come when we will know those kinds of things?” he asked Tiffany Collins of the Okeechobee County Health Department.
“Those will always be reported,” she said. “The State of Florida is not reporting recovered numbers.” She said the state is primarily concerned with hospital capacity and mortality rates.
“One way or another, when their time is up and we don’t have any cases, will that ever be public knowledge?” Commissioner Hazellief asked.
“No, sir,” said Ms. Collins. “That information would be considered patient care information and that information would not be made public.”
“Is there anything that the public could do so that we could have some accurate information out there?” the commissioner asked.
She said the dates of the tests are public. “You can gauge for yourself how old those tests were.”
UPDATE: On Sunday, a seventh positive case of COVID-19 was reported for Okeechobee County.
At the April 16 meeting, Ms. Collins said some cases may take longer than 14 days, depending on the severity, how long they are hospitalized and how immunocompromised they are.
“The 14 days is an incubation period from the date of exposure,” Ms. Collins explained. She said if the person becomes symptomatic, the isolation period could be longer than that.
“It depends on the person,” she said. “It depends on how healthy they are.”
She said the health department is developing a local long-term care facility rapid assessment response team plan. They will create a local strike team using a multidisciplinary approach for long-term care facilities, “making sure we are in constant communication with them.
“We are also focusing on infection control, making sure they are following all of the incident objective with executive orders, visitor restriction policies,” she continued.
Ms. Collins said rapid test machines, which give COVID-19 test results in five to 15 minutes, are being sold to hospitals in Florida in the larger counties. Also in the news are the antibody tests, which show if a person has had the virus and has recovered. The Florida Department of Health has put in a request to order 100,000 of the FDA-approved antibody tests, she added.
At their April 16 meeting, the Board of County Commissioners elected to conduct briefing updates on COVID-19 once a week on Thursdays. The next county briefing will be Thursday, April 23, at 4 p.m. Should a Thursday fall on a regular scheduled board meeting date, the briefing will be held in conjunction with the regular meeting at 9 a.m.
The regular scheduled commission meeting for April 23, however, has been rescheduled to Thursday, April 30, at 9 a.m. in chambers at 304 N.W. Second Street, Okeechobee. The county will continue to follow the social distancing guidelines for this meeting. The county will also receive an update on COVID-19 during this meeting. The public is encouraged to view the meetings online at co.okeechobee.fl.us.